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Releasing My Rage
Miguel Ayala

I’ve had an anger problem for a long time. It has included crying, yelling, cursing, screaming, and intimidating people. When I was at my worst, I would turn violent and destroy property and throw things. I even tried to kill myself.

The reason I have an anger problem is plain and simple. I grew up in a violent home. My mother would slap, whip, and beat me and my siblings. Also, she would torment us with words that to this day still hurt me. She would call us terrible names if one of us dyed our hair or for messing up on paperwork she was supposed to do. She would beat us for the smallest things, like making noise, or playing too rough in the house, or accidentally breaking things. She’d beat us until we bled or had welts all over our bodies.

That wasn’t the only side of her. Sometimes she would laugh with us, take us on family outings, nurture us, and really show a mother’s love. Those times, I really loved her. All this love and hate mixed together made me very confused and angry. Sometimes I took the anger out on myself, sometimes on other people.

When I was 12 my mother gave me $7.50 for a class trip, and instead I bought a video game magazine. She found out and whipped me with an extension cord.

That night I felt so much anger, I didn’t know what to do with it. So I contemplated two horrible things. I thought of sneaking out of the apartment, going to my roof, saying a prayer, and then jumping off. And I contemplated hurting my mother. I imagined getting a knife, tip-toeing into my mother’s bedroom, and killing her.

In the end, I made it through that night without hurting myself or her. But the worst of my anger was yet to come.

Back then, I never released my rage on my mother. I was afraid that if I did, she might kill me or beat me to the point where I’d be disabled. So instead, I took my rage out on other people, usually at school. I would fight and steal. Many times I would curse at people in public and say obscene things to females. I was a terrible bully.

It made me feel a little better to do those things. It made me feel like I had all the guts in the world, and it released my rage to make other people as mad as I felt. The only problem was that those people would always want to whip my butt for it. Sometimes they did.

Then one day I really lost it. It was a beautiful, warm day. I was 14 or 15. I lost a CD. At first that didn’t bother me. Then I started imagining that my mother and brother had taken it just to see me get mad. Thinking this made me angry. I started yelling at my brother and my mom. Then I really went crazy. I was crying, and before I knew it, I’d gone to the china cabinet in the kitchen and rammed my elbow into the glass cover. I cut myself pretty bad. That’s when my family sent me to the hospital.

image by John Gaston

The doctor who bandaged my cut asked me a bunch of questions to see why I did it. But I brushed them off, and said I just lost my temper. They thought of sending me to a residential treatment center where I could get help with my anger, but my mother wouldn’t sign the papers to let me go. Looking back, it might have been a good thing for me to go to a residential treatment center where I would have been away from home and might have gotten a lot of adult attention and more mental health services. Instead, I kept living with abuse and feeling angry.

I did go to a school in a hospital because of my behavior problems. There I had therapy and group meetings three times a week for almost two years. They were trying to get me to work on my problems: Fights, Acting Out, Acting on Impulse, and, my personal favorite, Self-Destructive Behaviors, like when I tried to sharpen my finger in a metal pencil sharpener.

The school was good for me because it gave me a support network of adults who cared. I had all these people who wanted to help me with my problems. It felt like winning the lottery.

Eventually I began to open up to those people. I told one of them that I was contemplating suicide. Telling someone that made me feel a little less alone. But when I started talking with a psychiatrist, I realized I could lose my regular life and go into foster care if I kept telling my secrets, so I tried to just think happy thoughts and act like I didn’t have any real problems.

But my anger and thoughts of suicide didn’t go away.

One day my brother was cursing a girl on the street, and I thought he was cursing me. So when he came upstairs, I started to curse him out. My mom started to yell at me and sent me to my room. I went to my room and slammed the door. My mom came in my room with a golf club and started to beat me with it. I lost my marbles. I started to yell, curse and have a tantrum, so the police were called. They thought I was suicidal, so they brought me to the emergency room. Then my moms said, “I don’t want him no more.” So I was placed in my first group home.

It was a good idea for me to be removed from my mother, but I hated being in a group home. (Still do.) I was so scared and pissed at the same time. But I also hoped that finally I might get help with my anger problem. It was always getting me into fights and sometimes getting me beaten up. Instead, my anger seemed to get worse.

There were so many things in group-home life that triggered my anger—the bickering, the teasing, the stealing, and the fighting. When I would get into a problem with a resident and staff would intervene, I would curse and stuff like that. Then, when I really needed help from staff, the words I’d said earlier would backfire and the staff wouldn’t help me. I got moved to a lot of different group homes because of my anger.

After a while, I started thinking about suicide again. I just couldn’t find a way out of my sadness and I did not trust anyone there enough to talk about my feelings with them. The sadness was not just connected with my abuse. It was also because of life in the group home. I didn’t feel very safe there.

image by YC-Art Dept

I even had a plan: I would either jump off the roof of my mother’s building or jump in front of a subway. Then one day I made a spontaneous attempt on my life instead. It was April Fool’s Day. That day, a lot of things had gone wrong. My favorite staff member was arrested due to a false allegation. I got into a fight with a friend of mine and he and his brother jumped me. I took out my frustration on myself. In the group home, with people watching, I took a knife and slit my throat. When I felt no pain, I broke a picture, took a jagged piece of glass from it, and cut my throat again.

Soon I was in the hospital. I thought I would be in there forever because of what I’d done to myself.

While I was there, I began to think about a lot of different things that had happened to me. I thought about all the abuse I’d endured in my home and at all the group homes I’d ever lived. It wasn’t the pain that bothered me, it was the fact that I would always find myself in the same situation over and over again. It seemed that people were always hitting me—my mom, my foster peers, sometimes even group home staff. I’d wonder if this pattern would ever stop. What if I got married? Would I face abuse from my spouse? Would I be abused by my kids? Could I break the cycle and try not to be around people who would abuse me? Did I and my anger cause people to abuse me?

There was one patient in the hospital who was old and he couldn’t talk or defend himself. He could only grunt. I didn’t want to be like him. I didn’t want to have the same old problems forever and end up defenseless in a hospital.

So I said to myself, “I don’t care what it takes. I am going to succeed. I am going to prove to all those who hurt me in my life that I have a future!” I thought maybe I’d want to try to help other people like myself so they would not suffer what I’ve suffered. To do that, I needed to live.

After my discharge from the hospital, I was motivated to change my life. I started to go back to school. I did my chores and cleaned my room and showed a decent amount of respect to the staff. I started yet another program for my anger. This one paired me with a therapist who was on call 24/7.

Not all those changes stuck. I stopped going to the program after about a month. I don’t always do my chores anymore, and I still get in fights. I still struggle with my anger and sometimes when I think about my past, I just want to die. My anger still gets me moved around a lot, and recently I’ve been running away pretty frequently. But I do feel a little more motivated to not really slip up since I tried to kill myself. I guess that showed me how serious my anger is, and I feel determined to not let that happen again.

Still, I don’t know what needs to happen for me to get a firm grip on my anger and emotions. I’ve been in a lot of programs, and not all of them have had much of an influence on me or my anger. I think the ones that helped the most were the ones where I had a good relationship with the staff there.

I guess my anger problem is the kind of thing that takes a long time to deal with. For now, I try to focus on the positive in my life, and I try not to think about my problems too much. When that doesn’t work, I tell myself that if I give in to the stupidity and really lose it, then I’m letting the bullies win.

To talk to a crisis counselor about child abuse, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or go to

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